Isolde Martyn & Robyn Ridgeway (text) and and Louise Hogan (illustrator), Country town, Ford Street Publishing, September 2023, 48 pp., RRP $19.95 (pbk), ISBN 9781922696359
Happy times, sad times, boom times and gloom times! From the First People’s camp at the river crossing in the 1820s through to Carols by Candlelight at the showground in today’s world, this is a decade by decade wonderfully illustrated story of a small country community.
This unique picture book details life in an Australian fictional town through time. The story begins with a river crossing where a clan of First Nations People made camp for thousands of years. Then in the 1820s, a band of European explorers travel through the district with some of them staying on building cabins and farming sheep. This brings trouble for the clan as their area is populated more and more, their hunting land fenced off from them as well as their freedom to live off Country. The story moves through the gold rush, booming businesses, floods, bushfires, women’s rights protests, the arrival of the railway, the Great War of 1914-1918, the Depression and more war, a visit from the Queen with the story ending at Christmas Time 2018.
There are also detailed accounts of the introduction of rabbits (by whom and where), a police report of an 1862 robbery of a Cobb & Co coach, the introduction of refrigeration technology and how it changed the cattle industry through exports of beef globally, detailed ration cards examples from World War II and interviews with a ‘grandparents’ view of growing up in Australia through these times. The appendix also has a simple timeline which children can follow easily.
Louise Hogan’s detailed illustrations depict the life and colour palettes of each era beautifully. Children can scan each page looking for the tiniest detail from shop signs to fashion and vehicles and games children played through time.
Country town captures a monumental period of Australia’s history neatly linking to school curriculum and is an essential book in any school library for ages 9-12 years old.
Reviewed by Stef Gemmill